Ca’ The Ewes polka

Also known as Ca The Ewes To The Knowes, Ca The Ewes To The Knows, Ca’ The Ewes Tae The Knowes, Ca’ The Yowes, Ca’ The Yowes Tae The Knowes, Ca’ The Yowes To The Knowes, Ca’ The Yows, Call The Ewes, Call The Ewes To The Knowes, Call The Yowes To The Knowes, Call The Yows, Call The Yows To The KNowes.

There are 17 recordings of this tune.

This tune has been recorded together with

Ca’ The Ewes has been added to 2 tune sets.

Ca' The Ewes has been added to 35 tunebooks.

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One setting

X: 1
T: Ca' The Ewes
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Bmin
E>F B2|A<F A2|F>E Dd|c>d e2|
f>B B>B|A>d F2|E2 F>A|B2 B2||
E>F B>B|A>F A2|F>E D>d|c>d e2|
f<f B/BB/|A>d F2|E>EF>A|B2B2||
# Added by odee .

Sixteen comments

Info from the Fiddler’s Companion


AKA - “Ca’ the Yowes.” Scottish, Air (2/4 time). B Minor. Standard. AB. The title means ‘drive the ewes to the knolls’. The tune is composed virtually on a pentatonic or hexatonic scale (except for a passing note or two). As “Ca’ the Yowes” it is the title of a Robert Burns (1759-1796) song, first published in the Scots Musical Museum (1790), although he adapted it from an older song and claimed only the second and last verse as his own. The chorus goes:


Ca’the yowes to the knowes,

Ca’ them where the heather grows,

Ca’ them where the burnie rowes,

My bonie Dearie.


The original song (upon which Burns’ based his adaptation) was attributed to Isobel ‘Tibbie’ Pagan (c. 1741-1821), an old woman from Muirkirk, East Ayrshire, who bartered in unlicensed whiskey (and smuggled it to!), and who was known for the stories she told as she dispensed her wares to her customers from her private ale-house. In fact, Pagan, is said to have been illiterate and to have dictated her poems to an amanuensis, a tailor named William Gemmell (who, along with transcribing them probably altered their reputedly characteristic bawdiness for public consumption.) When her collection of poems and songs was published in Glasgow in 1805, however, “Ca’ the Yowes” was not included. Local lore has it that she was a friend of Burns’. See note for “Maid that Tends the Goats.”


O’Farrell (Pocket Companion, vol. III), c. 1808; pg. 66.

Posted by .

The act of “Cut-N-Paste’ can lack heart ~

~ and an element of disbelief that you actually have ever played it, or sung it?

Why cut and paste all this from ‘The Fiddler’s Companion’, notes included? Couldn’t you have at least shared with us a transcription of how you actually know and play it, or maybe a transcription of it from a favourite recording? Then you could have left the history, this exact notation from Volume III of “O’Farrell’s Pocket Companion for the Irish or Union Pipes”, & the notes lifted from Andrew Kuntz’s “Fiddler’s Companion” ~ to these comments? 😏

I was sure a take on this already existed on site, but didn’t manage to find it…

Or perhaps it just indicates that I don’t know anything about the tune

🙂 I was entranced by this tune today after hearing it on Alasdair Fraser’s, Legacy of the Scottish Fiddle, Volume 2. And yes I did play it this afternoon, in between listening to Fraser’s style of playing. 🙂

Posted by .

Ca’ The Ewes

Years ago I heard Simon Thoumire play a very atmospheric slow rendering of this tune on the English concertina.

Odee ~ at least you credited it, but I would have been more impressed if you’d taken the time to actually transcribe Alistair’s playing of it, or some facsimile of that, which would have convinced me you actually liked the tune enough to have bothered. Maybe after you get hold of it you’ll come back and give us a transcription of how it went in your hands and heart…

Yes domnull, and I’d hoped to find a recording to transcribe a version from, but then forgot all about it… 😏

“Ca’ the Ewes Tae the Knowes” ~ from that discussion

Ca’ the ewes tae the knowes
Ca’ them where the heather grows
Ca’ them where the burnie rowes
My bonnie dearie

Hark a mavis evening song
Soundin’ Cluden’s woods amang
Then a foldin’ let us gang
My bonnie dearie

We’ll gae doon by Cludenside
Through the hazels spreading wide
All the ways that sweetly glide
To the moon sae clearly

Doon the Cluden silent hours
All in moonshine midnight hours
All the dewy buddin’ flowers
The fairies dance so cheery

Ghaist nor boggle shall thou fear
Thou art to love Heaven so dear
Naught of ill shall come you near
My bonnie dearie

Fair and lovely as thou art
Thou hast stolen my very heart
I can die but canna part
Wi’ my bonnie dearie

# Posted on October 9th 2006 by jfother

Ca’ the Ewes

I’ve always loved this tune. IMO it’s best played with a slow, very loose and slightly surging tempo. The timing of the notation is correct but only a VERY rough guide as to how it should really sound.

Definitely agree Bogman. If you’d like to hear a bit of what Alasdair Fraser gets up to I notice Barnes and Noble allows listening to samples from “Legacy of the Scottish Fiddle, Vol. 2” so here’s a link :

The sample of Ca’ the Ewes is about halfway down the list.

Posted by .


Polka? I don’t think so. This is a slow air, and a song, written or collected by Robert Burns. Definitely not a dance tune!

Lester, the tune types on this site are used to select a meter– so “polka” is used for music in 2/4.

Another name?

Is this tune know by any other name? Not sure if it’s what I am looking for but learnt a tune at a workshop with Margie Beaton called “ca’ the wethers” this weekend and it was in 3 or 4 parts. Some in the workshop were saying it was known as something else also but I didn’t catch the other names.

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Ca’ the Wethers

Amoir - this is not the tune you’re looking for. It’s possibly a tune called “Glen Tilt Lodge” (also known as Ca’ the Wethers to the Hill/Glentilt/The Duke of Athol’s Forrest Lodge Glen Tilt, etc), which can be found in the usual anthologies (e.g. Kerr’s Merry Melodies or the Athole Collection).
[Oh, I see that David50 has answered before me - sorry, David50.]

Ca’ The Yowes Tae The Knowes - Air, Hornpipe, Jig and Reel

The remarkable Matt Seattle adds a proper second strain to Ca’ The Yowes Tae The Knowes, and plays it as a Hornpipe, Jig and a Reel!